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Author Topic: "Best practices" for adventure/campaign creation?  (Read 4873 times)
baron samedi

Posts: 137

« on: September 11, 2006, 07:42:22 AM »

Hello Forgites!

I'd like to ask the Forge's collective wisdom whether there exists somewhere a thread on the "best practices" for adventure/campaign creation, from a game writer's perspective? I'm not talking about narration style or techniques, simply "what are the current state of the art trends for writing adventures-in-the-gamebook for Narrative games"?

For example:

    - Dogs in the Vineyard has detailed "Town creation rules" with sin progression;
    - My Life With Master has a gradual progression towards Endgame conditions;
    - Bacchanal has random events happen with aggravation until key die rolls happen.
    - Savage Worlds has the Plot Point system of a series of linked scenarios with a lot of mini-adventures to insert following player direction.
    - Rune has extremely detailed point-buy rules for adventure creation...
    - Donjon has very special rules for the same...

Is there a general thread collecting global ideas on this theme?

I'm working on design ideas and want something to "confront" my paradigm and make me see if I could expand my views on this topic for my games' design...

Linking adventures into campaigns without railroading is one of my core interrogations. So far I'm working with a model designed around a wheel hub or a spiral's core with a unifying theme as the metaphorical core ("the invisible point necessary for movement yet unmoving") and stories grafting independently around it, but I'm looking for something more formal as to structure... especially non-linear/non-railroading plot structure.


« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2006, 11:39:07 AM »


This is my first post here, but I can tell you that, after 26 years of gaming, and designing three different campaign worlds from scratch, that the "best practices" I've adopted boil down to one concept;

If you don't want to spoon-feed the adventure to your players, then you are simply going to have to create a pretty comprehensive set of material.  But, restrict that material to things that you are actually going to need.  Don't detail out the entire continent, if your players are never going to go there.  Detail out the related city/town/village/wilderness area/whatever, so that the material will be flexible enough to handle the wandering player character, but don't worry too much about "that city two mountains over and a thousand miles to the south."  Players won't be going there anytime soon.

A good example is TSR's "The Village of Hommlet".  I can hear the groans now, but the Village of Hommlet served one very big purpose, and that was to provide a relatively small, but detailed bit of landscape for the players to romp around in.  Enough room for them to get started, and even enough room to get up in levels a bit, before you would even need to think about creating whatever lay beyond the immediate vicinity of the Village itself.  You could follow the main plot hooks, but you didn't necessarily have to.  For the inventive GM, there was plenty of in-village interaction that could go on.  And there was always the uber-plot looming that the players could follow.  You can even give them a gentle nudge without railroading them at all.

The point is that a well-defined but relatively small area is often more useful than a loosely-defined but geographically large area.   Almost every campaign setting that I've ever read fell into this trap - creating an abundance of detail for a very large area, without  zooming on anything specific.  This puts the burden of the fine details on the GM.  I don't know about you, but I seem to have less time these days than when I was a carefree, dice-slinging teenager, so the more material that I can actually use in the game session the better - it frees me up to focus on the game itself.  But, not everyone is like me - some people like to define those details for themselves. 

David Jackson
Compleat Fantasy
Anders Larsen

Posts: 270

« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2006, 12:13:03 PM »

I do not know if this is "best practises", but I will typically boil campaign creations down to:

1) Clarifying what the players wants with their characters.
2) Based on this make events that challenge and activates the characters (also called bangs).
3) Follow where the characters go and build conflicts based on this.
3) go back to 2 until the players changes what they want with their characters, then go back to 1.

On top of this there can of course be build a lot of tools that help the players express what they want and that help the GM generating bangs. This can be tools like relations maps, beliefs/motivation mechanics, kickers etc.

Is it something like this you are after?

 - Anders

baron samedi

Posts: 137

« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2006, 12:28:23 PM »

Thanks guys.

I was essentially seeking for "Rules for creating adventures".

I'm essentially getting to think ways to generate adventures outside of my paradigm, which is : "put the PCs in an awful mess and let them bask in it without thinking ahead how they might solve it." (and enjoy the show)

An example of what I'd like to see: In Paranoia RPG, you have as a formal game structure:

1. An unjust call for volunteering.
2. THEN Testing phase for unworking equipment
3. THEN A ridiculous and deadly mission assignment
4. THEN backstabbing secret society orders
5. THEN players killing each other off
6. THEN the GM killing the survivor(s) with a twisted surprise.
7. THEN a debriefing (theoritical at least); did anybody ever get to there?

All the same Dogs in the Vineyard has adventure-creation rules in steps (Step 1, 2, etc.) and Rune has the same in uber-detail.

For my personal concerns, having lots and lots of background isn't a problem, so the railroading isn't much of a problem there. A GM can easily create a lot, and my French book has about 40 mini-adventures of 3-4 lines everytime I introduce a group, faction, etc., classified according to Robin D. Law's playstyle theory (with his august permission). My problem's the adventures I'd like to design in the rulebook; I want to try the Narrative look on a system and thus I can't keep my "solve the problem"-style political-war adventures. Thus my problem...


Essentially, I am wondering : is it possible to build a campaign story-arc of linked adventures without railroading? The Savage Worlds "Plot point settings" (e.g. 50 fathoms, Low Life) tried this a bit, but the result isn't perfect, it's still mostly a linear road with add-ons grated onto it.

To put you in context I'm currently translating my French RPG to English; the book should be about 300 pages 6"x9" of which there will be only 20 pages of rules (Narrativist, ultra-rules light) plus perhaps 40 pp of adventures, in Savage-Worlds' "barebones" style. I'm trying something Narrativist for a change and am working on a system meant to generate tragedy. I've already got a lot done but now I'm trying to confront it with other ways of doing this...


Matt Machell

Posts: 477

« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2006, 01:00:49 PM »

Well, "best practices" will depend on what you want to do with the game. What's it about in moment to moment play? What do you need to get those moments to go with a bang? What building blocks do you need before play to make them happen reliably? Knowing that may lead you to tools that work best for your game. Building those tools may also cause you to revise your rules to better reflect what you're trying to do and integrate with that prep.

There are lots of tools that might be useful, but I've no idea how useful they are to your game. If you do a search of the forum for terms like flags, scene framing, relationship maps, kickers, bangs, you'll find all sorts of threads on quick and effective situation prep for thematic play. I also recommend reading some of the posts on Deep in the Game about techniques. But that might not be quite what you're looking for.

Ah, on preview I see you want to generate tragedy. My best advice is to look at situations in drama that lead to tragedy of the kind you want and brainstorm some ideas about the commonality in those pieces. Then try and find a way to ensure that game prep produces similar situations involving your player characters and npcs.


baron samedi

Posts: 137

« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2006, 03:09:27 PM »

Thanks for the keywords, Matt, I'll try searching. :)

As you may guess, my puzzle is not about choosing mechanisms - I have them already, I'd like to see other styles "scenario creation mechanisms" , not storytelling tools (for which I have what I need) to see other ways of seeing outside my "paradigm".

As I can see, there hasn't beem much on the Forge on this... "published campaigns in Narrative style" is unthreaded ground it semms...


Anders Larsen

Posts: 270

« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2006, 03:51:31 PM »

I will properly make a fool of myself by dealing into GNS theory, but I will try anyway.

What is interesting Narrative games is to have situations where you can address the thematic stuff. To have a predetermined story-arc seems to be a somewhat backward approach. It is much easier to create the situations first and let a story unfold from them, than take a story and then try to create thematic interesting situation from that.

It is not that it is impossible to create a campaign for a Narrative style game. To do so you have to make a setup where these situations can naturally unfold. But in the end it is easier and more flexible to give the game-master a set of tools so he can make the situations himself.

The way you properly should go is to make a campaign setting that have a lot of interesting building conflicts that the GM and players can build on.

 - Anders

Lance D. Allen

Posts: 1962

« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2006, 06:57:55 PM »


I have something that may meet your needs. It's what I refer to as my "Goal Meta-System". I'll boil it down for you, but will share the details if you like.

Basically, the 'campaign' is determined as a group. You set an Endgame Goal.. something like "Drop the One Ring into the fiery volcano where it was forged", or maybe a bit vaguer like "Destroy the One Ring". This sets the stage for how things are going to end. You also set a level called the EndCount, which will determine when it's time to end the campaign. This number is best divisible by the number of players ('cause it will be divided among the players). Then create characters, and divide the points thus gained among them for setting goals.

Each player uses the points to set what are referred to as Foundational Goals, which are generally meant to be things to get the campaign rolling, and 'finish off' their beginning concepts. As an example, you might might have a character who you want to be a warrior set the goal "Be accepted into the military academy".

Then you begin play. During play, the GM will present opportunities to advance toward their goals, as well as providing adversity on the way. When the goals are accomplished, the players get more points back, which are used to advance their characters, but more importantly, to set more goals. Goals set during play fall into two categories; Rising Actions and Falling Actions. Rising Actions typically push toward the Endgame Goal. Falling Actions distract from, or even detract from, the Endgame Goal.

Rising Action - Gather a group to help get the One Ring to Mordor
Falling Action - discover the elven secret of ale brewing

So basically, the campaign is drawn from the players goal choices, and their advancement is also based upon their pursuing their goals actively.

A long summary, I know.. But I've never been known for being terse.

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Callan S.

Posts: 3588

« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2006, 07:39:51 PM »

Linking adventures into campaigns without railroading[/b] is one of my core interrogations. So far I'm working with a model designed around a wheel hub or a spiral's core with a unifying theme as the metaphorical core ("the invisible point necessary for movement yet unmoving") and stories grafting independently around it, but I'm looking for something more formal as to structure... especially non-linear/non-railroading plot structure.
What are you looking to get out of the campaign?

I'd suggest railroading is used because play must go on to get to something out of the campaign, as players don't know what their trying to get, so they sit there or idle around.

If you set up play enamble pursuit of something the players want (players, not characters) then the players will push on to get it again and again (so long as their hunger remains for it). It's not hard to add a few touches that suggest a beginning, middle and end to it (all timed to that hunger) and there, it's in an easy to remember story format.

What do you want to pursue? Or if that's too hard, do you want to try and find out, by playing, what you all want to pursue?

Philosopher Gamer
Moreno R.

Posts: 389

« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2006, 08:13:45 PM »

    - Dogs in the Vineyard has detailed "Town creation rules" with sin progression;
    - My Life With Master has a gradual progression towards Endgame conditions;
    - Bacchanal has random events happen with aggravation until key die rolls happen.
    - Savage Worlds has the Plot Point system of a series of linked scenarios with a lot of mini-adventures to insert following player direction.
    - Rune has extremely detailed point-buy rules for adventure creation...
    - Donjon has very special rules for the same...


Linking adventures into campaigns without railroading is one of my core interrogations. So far I'm working with a model designed around a wheel hub or a spiral's core with a unifying theme as the metaphorical core ("the invisible point necessary for movement yet unmoving") and stories grafting independently around it, but I'm looking for something more formal as to structure... especially non-linear/non-railroading plot structure.

Hi, Erick!

After trying the one in DitV I became a big supporter of rules (and Game Designs) like these, so I applaud your intention to put one in your game [but your talk of "plot scructure" it's a little jarring...  I would see "plot" like something that happer IN play, not before. Did you mean "content"?]. I am not fluent enough in gaming theory (and in English) to talk about them in general, but I would like to cite two games that maybe have what you are searching for. 

The first game is Primetime Adventures:  the premise and the setting are decided by all the players by consensus, and every character has a "story arc" that decide in every episode of a series who is the protagonist(s) of that episode (with rules that give that character more resources to play)

The second is Burning Empires, where there is a prepared structure that link all the sessions of play into a "campaign" that WILL end with a planet saved o lost (or worse off) to an alien parasitic invasion.

If you already know them, I would like to know why you didn't list them, to understand better what you need and give you better examples (if I know some).



(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)

Posts: 150

« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2006, 08:26:09 PM »

If you look at most adventure modules, they often involve a specific monster, quest or problem that has absolutely nothing to do with the characters. Its possible to link them to the characters, but it feels contrived. Of course, all of this is fantasy and don't you dare believe it. However, the best adventures are tied directly to what the characters, but more importantly, what the players want. Introduced to RPG over 25 years ago, my perspective has changed dramatically.

Best practice is make a list of players and the characters they play. Ask the questions beginning with Whom, What, When, Where and Why:

...do you love?
...do you hate?
...do you want?
...do you give?
...do you protect?
...do you oppose?

Collect the answers (use an editor or spreadsheet for easy information retrieval.)

Find the common answers and build your campaign. Choose a unique answer from each player/character and define some mini-adventures. It doesn't take that long and you'll have something you can run at a moment's notice. Also, focus on unique or interesting answers for specific adventures tied to one or two characters. Put some wild twists into those. The target players will show attention and the others will sense it.

After running a few adventures, ask the questions again. Some will change, while most will remain the same. If the players understand what you are doing, the answers will be more creative. Voi la! Your campaign.

That's my best practice. I like to tell stories and want the players to tell them, too.


Time for sleep.
baron samedi

Posts: 137

« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2006, 06:57:15 AM »

Thanks for the tips! My mind's progressing somewhere. To situate you a bit about my game's theme, here's my premise:

- I'm translating an existing 2nd edition RPG (The Last Chronicles of Erdor) and trying a new system. My questions are from a designer's and writer's, not play perspective.

- The game's theme is the struggle to save this something by sacrificing all the rest and facing the consequences.

- Its setting is both alien, bronze age and oneiric with a messianic tone. No humans, no known species, no spells and no magic items.

- The Endtimes are coming. The world has less than a year to exist. This is certain: a comet is scorching the sky and select Judges received a vision in which they received 7 certitudes. One of them is the world's certain death. Another is the chance that *something* might be saved.

- The PCs are judges and prophets anoited by an enigmatic entity they know next to nothing about and must decide for themselves their creeds. They lead entire tribes and make kings tremble; decisions are made at the "ruler" level, not the "soldier" level. Their task is to judge the world, like the knights of the Apocalypse, and try to decide what may be saved and how. They have no certitudes as to results.

- PCs aren't meant to and can't solve the world's ills as it is consumed by war, genocide, widespread rebellion, witchcraft, whoredom and invasion by death cults. It's going from worse to as bad as it could be, e.g. Lovecraft's idea of what could be if his Elder Gods were indeed awakened upon the Earth.

- Insofar the game system is mostly influenced by Dogs in the Vineyard (morality-based adventure structure, aggravation), My Life with Master (slave-master relationship for sorcery, endgame), Herowars (group/species traits), Over the Edge (anything goes traits) and Extreme Vengeance (endgame conditions).

- The campaigns herein would feature the world's end from the perspective of 5 alien civilizations. Each campaign would have a specific theme: species' slavery vs the price of freedom; conspiracy and massacre vs the price of a peace at all costs; the price to pay to save one's own from natural cataclysms when many are threatened; etc. I envision adventures as 'spiral arms' independent linked together through their core theme, but I'd like to introduce aggravation in the world between them and have some past decisions strike them back. Since the campaigns talk about war stories and tragedy, all goes as worse as it could and the PC's actions only make matters worse most of the time. My campaign would be about growing steps of horror as world-events, for example:

1) the faithful are persecuted as scapegoats of the Endtimes;
2) when the king orders them slain, messianic tribes invade the land and burn it to ashes, threatening in turn many heathen innocents;
3) attempts to raise a rebellion against the king cause warlords to battle amongst themselves and only pay lip service to their cause;
4) desperate actions by a witch to preserve her power causes the waters to crush on the land, preventing the refugees (both faithful and heathen)
5) full-war explodes as the rebels free Terrible Ancient Gods that wreck havoc on the continent whilst invading nations come to plunder the ruins of the kingdom.

For an analogy, imagine the players as prophets in the Jewish Warsaw ghetto as the Nazi regime is crushing the people and the communist armies are marching upon the city to lay waste to it. The PC's can't save everyone and must choose what is the best course of action among horrid possibilities: killing the faithful before they fall to torture, hide the children by sacrificing the adults in a mock rebellion, leading a desperate attack against the oppressors knowing it is doomed, etc. The campaign's "story arc" would be for example, in such a case:

1) ghettos formed and quislings rising;
2) persecutions from the German regime reaching the apex;
3) communist invasion and the ensuing bloodshed; etc.

- Wolfen, your "Goal Meta-System" seems exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about. I'd like to know more, but as you can see my premise makes it that players can't solve the world's ills. Story arcs I seek would be about making sense of what happened before on subsequent episodes, since despite all the power they wield the PCs can't save the world. Essentially my problem, from a writer (not gameplay) perspective, is how to link these adventures.

- Callan, I'd like to pursue this to be non-linear, but it's hard to make an escalation of violence without at least controling the flow of world-scale events. Making previous choices fit is hard to foretell from a writer's perspective...

- Brother Blood, I'm not 100% fluent in English too so please excuse my use of terms. I was pretty influenced by DITV but I'd like to see other models of such design, for few games have "formal adventure creation rules" that are non linear too. I'll check out your suggestions! I didn't know them.

- Troy; I fully agree with you if I was doing this as a GM... But my question relates to the fact that I'd like to insert 20 adventures (5 campaigns, 4 adv. each plus mini-adventure summaries by the plenty) in my gamebook. One of the things, as a RPG customer and designer, that I look for and something I mourn of indie rpgs in general is they lack "plug and play" material : many people have limited time and want something to pull from the book and play right now with minimal preparation ahead. When there ARE adventures, they're usually designed as if people were beginners while most are not. Savage Worlds had a strong take on this (60% setting, 40% adventures) and I'd like to do the same. You've given me an idea though (below).

Checking the keywords, it seems ideas like "Story mapping" and "Situation Web" might fit the kind of ideas I was looking for as for insuring "horizontal links" between adventures... For example, by demanding that each player at the start of every adventure name a degree of relation for NPC (or PC!) he is related with in the setting... For a twist, perhaps another player might qualify this relationship (e.g. love/hate/etc.), another the cause of this relationship, another his status... But I wouldn't want to drown my core story with too many side characters (e.g. most adventures will have 4-5 Major NPC roles, a few Moderate roles as their proxies and Minor NPCs created on a whim to fill a given role).

Player 1: (Kin) He's my cousin...
Player 2: (Relationship) he hates you...
Player 3: (Cause) because you stole his bethroted...
Player 4:  (Situation)... now he's marshal of the Evil King's army...
Player 5: (Goal) ... and he wants to humiliate you for what you did.


Thanks everyone and anyone else I forgot!

baron samedi

Posts: 137

« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2006, 10:09:24 AM »

Greetings again,

In addition to everyone's generous help here, I'd like to publicly thank Wolfen and Sébastien (pells) for the help they provided me in public. I'm especially deserving to Wolfen's Meta-Theory, who I'll add among my credits of course. :)

From your tips I've devised the following "rough" sketch for campaign (e.g. Chronicle in my jargon) design to link adventures (e.g. Psalms in my jargon) which I present below. It's about a page long, sorry if it is TOO long.

We need to test it, but I still need to think about adventure design. For this, we are also trying something based on Relationship Maps by allowing players to "avatarize" NPCs when not present and gain experience from that NPC's goals (which relate to another PC), but I'm afraid it might slow down the game down. I've added "What is this game about" to give you a referential. (The archaic tone is deliberate and it still needs spellchecking.)

You critics would be appreciated: does it make sense? Does it support the game's theme?


(The Last Chronicles of Erdor)

Designing Chronicles
Although the game system suits well episodic play, Psalms can be linked together to form a Chronicle. Every Chronicle should have a specific theme tied to the imminent death of Erdor. It has a limited duration in time, and concludes with the coming of the Endtimes. Likewise, every Chronicle should feature the apparition of the two Messiahs and their Last Omens, as prophesized by the fourth Certitude (cf. The Seven Certitudes, p.XXX). Their form might be anything, from people to groups or monsters to metaphors or even cosmological, political or military events.
Every Chronicle is tied by a global story arc, the design of which should follow these steps:

• Theme: First, negotiate as a group the common theme of the Chronicle. This theme must evoke tragedy and relate to the world's end. For example, the second Chronicle presented within this book is set in the East and has for theme "tyranny through slavery". The Chronicle's theme should connect the entire Chronicle's Psalms like a whirlwind or wheel hub; they should not follow a peculiar order, but be linked by their common theme, the intensification of conflicts and recurring characters.

• Duration: Second, decide as a group of the number of Psalms that will make up the Chronicle. This will determine how much time is left before Erdor dies. Ideally, this number should be divisible by the number of Judges, e.g. four or eight or twelve Psalms for a group of four players plus the Game Master. When this number is up, the final Psalm of Endtimes is played, after which Erdor will be destroyed.

• The Shattering: Thirdly, the number of Psalms should be indicative of the intensification of the Shattering as it consumes the world. When a Psalm is done, the next must involve an escalation of tension until all things meet their apex during the Psalm of Endtimes. In Chronicle play, Psalms should usually begin at the third level of Shattering (Wickedness) and grow further up to Annihilation. This escalation may or not be equally divided among the Psalms, according to what the Game Master deems preferable for the Chronicles' global rise in tension.

• Pathos: Fourthly, the number of Psalms should be divided by the number of players as equally as possible and the result assigned as Pathos. Each Pathos represents a major stake for the Judge, a change of things   he wants accomplished in himself or the world before Erdor is destroyed and forever forgotten. Pathos should be what the Judge cherishes the most and would save from destruction as per the fifth Certitude (cf. The Seven Certitudes, p.XXX). For example, in the Chronicle of the East described within this book (cf. p.XXX) around the theme of "tyranny through slavery", a Judge may want to save the faithful from oblivion, to punish the Synarch of Hail and Frost for his evils or to teach the Worms That Walk how to feel love. A player must have at least one of his Judge's Pathos described at any time, as long as he has any Pathos left: the rest may be kept aside until the players is inspired to develop them during play.

• Pathos as stakes: Fifthly, the Chronicle will have one Psalm for every Pathos of the Judges. Hence, the story of every Psalm must allow for one of the Judge's Pathos to become the stake of a challenge. If the Judge wins this challenge, he may add one die (1D) to his Trait dice either by augmenting a Trait or adding a new one. Whether he wins or looses, this Pathos will be erased and the Chronicle will progress one more step towards the Endtimes.

• The Psalm of Endtimes: Sixthly, when the Judges have no more Pathos, they all had a chance to face their heart's most cherished desire. The Psalm of Endtimes must feature aggravation to the point of Annihilation and will end with the world's death. This Psalm offers the Judge a last opportunity to make a choice at to what matters the most to them, if only in memory, and make an ultimate heroic stand even as all they loved and cherished will be destroyed and forever forgotten - except perhaps something they might save from their resolved Pathos.

• The Final Judgement: When the Shattering engulfs the world and the Tree of Life loses its last Shard into the void, Erdor will be destroyed. The Judges will now face their Final Judgement before the ENIGMA.  Ideally in a silent environment with dark lighting, every Judge should stand, in turn, and answer his accusers: his very peers. In turn, each of the other Judges will reveal every wickedness, weakness, faithlessness, cowardice or act of evil of the Judge they bore witness to. The accused Judge will answer these questions solemnly. The Game Master, speaking for the Messiahs, may also ask questions to the accused Judge or the witness Judges – but never make accusations. After all Judges have spoken for or against their peer, all of them write down in secret their verdict. After this, the other Judges take turns to answer their consciences. When all the Judges have been heard before the ENIGMA, all their verdicts will be folded secretly and burned by a candle light, with none allowed to see them. None but the ENIGMA will ever know the Judges' Final Judgement, for the only ENIGMA is, and all the rest is conjecture. The game session should end by speaking aloud the Last Ritual Sentence of the Endtimes:

These had been the last days of Erdor, and the Judges' tears were of crystal.
In their emerald tombs, the Ancients of Kraan wept for the world that passed away, destroyed and forever forgotten.

Chronicles in Erdor after the Endtimes
Although every Chronicle ends by the world's destruction, other Chronicles may be played with other Judges in a similar time but onto other areas of Erdor, to illustrate the coming of the Endtimes from another angle. Alternatively, other Chronicles may be set in the same place and time, or even with the same people, but as alternative versions of the Psalms told. Since the Chronicles are meant to represent the gathered writings of the Judges' travels during the last days of Erdor, it is well possible that multiple variants of a given story appear.
Chronicles set after a previous Chronicle's End thus simply goes back in time in the last days of Erdor, at the dawn before the eternal night. Since the world's reality is oneiric, it obeys the laws of dream and feelings, not logic. Temporal consistency is thus irrelevant before consistency in theme and tone of storytelling.


What is this Game About?
This game is about confronting the inevitable death of an alien world, making moral choices and facing their tragic outcomes in a strange land of beauty and horror. Its central concept rests onto a single question:
Knowing that your world is going to die, how far would you go to preserve what you cherish the most?
The players take on the role of the Judges of the Indigo Flame, prophets, warriors and healers from all peoples and nations. They were given power by the ENIGMA to restore the harmony of the universe by mending its Shattering. They wander the world as its end grows near, passing judgement on the wicked, saving the innocent from oppression and destroying the forces that serve the Shattering. The clash between the values cherished by the Judges, both cultural and personal, and their duty to save Erdor drives their adventures.
The role of the Game Master, in turn, is to challenge the players with hard moral dilemmas and their consequences, to frame poetic scenes and aggravate conflicts, driving up the stakes at every occasion. He imagines nations, communities, tribes and clans viciously torn by the Shattering, without thinking of a solution before hand. Adventures are designed as morality plays, grey zones of conflicting passions with the world’s growing corruption as the consequence.
The story belongs to the Judges. Once the situation is presented, the Game Master simply reacts to the Judges’ endeavours. His ultimate goal is to force heart-rending choices on the players.

The Last Chronicles of Erdor (c) Erick N. Bouchard 2006. All rights reserved.

Posts: 192

« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2006, 10:14:49 AM »

A quick beginning note : I've PMed Erick to talk how I propose to write scenarios, as I didn't want to hickjack this thread. After some prelimaries discussion (in french), it seems it would be better if I write this down here instead of a private conversation. I need to present a couple of things about how I see things, but I really want this post to be about Erick's project and how my theory could be applied to it.

My first thougth about the above example (Dogs, MLWM) is that that scheme of writing a scenario are more meant for quick preparation and a short period of time of play (one or two sessions). Thus, the campaign objective here is hard to obtain. I believe it is not even wished, so no problem there, at least, from my point of view. Another thing is that the writing of campaign has not been, then again to my opinion, fully explored yet. It is (falsely) assumed that any kind of prewritten plot comes in the way : railroading, illusionist tricks.
So, like Erick, there are some things I wanted to avoid at all cost : railroading and linear adventures.

What I propose would look like this (note that this is not GNS related and can applied to narrativism, but others too) :
- Define the essence (something like a relationship map) : organisation, characters, locations that take part in the campaign. You have to write this down in a "worst case scenario" style.
- Don't write the plot for the PCs : don't mention them at all !!! Write down the plot in a "best case scenario" style.
- Use a calendar based adventure instead of chapters based
- Be multi plots
The idea is to provide a backbone of a story, omitting details on purpose, thus leaving space for bangs and a more narrative way of playing. The DM build upon this backbone, improvising all the details.
Now, there is a theory of mine about elements and how to linked together different parts of a campaign. See this thread for that. For an example of what I'm doing, it is here.

So, how can you apply this to your project ? Here are my suggestions :
- You already know your campaign will last one year, so here you have your calendar.
- You say you have something like 5 mini campaigns : merge them together and try to have only one, all occuring at the same time. This way, you are multi plots. Players won't be following one straight story : they will be emerged into a living world, exploring the space, but also the time. And I'm telling you, they will jump from one story to the other. Thus, you avoid railroading. And make sure your stories overlapped each others.
- You will be building a web instead of an arc. This is a BIG difference.
- Write the story for events happening outside of the player's influence : take nothing for granted from their actions. This is more fun to write than a typical linear scenario.
- link the different parts of your scenario thru passage points (see my theory).

There are a couple of advantages to that :
- people can replay the scenario, starting at a different point.
- The DM can pinpoint the influence of his players. Thus, if they have too much influence on one part of the story, the DM can still use all the other parts of the web.
- there are others (like illustrations and database), but I will leave them beside.

I hope this could help. Of course, it is a very different way of writing and for people who don't believe at all in prewritten scenarios, this is wasted air. But I still believe, it is the best way to avoid the things we mentionned earlier.

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